Academic Stress: IIT Bombay: 76% of first-year students claim ‘academic stress’ | Mumbai News

MUMBAI: Shaken by the suicide of a first-year student early this year, IIT-Bombay carried out a survey to gauge stress levels within its bright but rigorous academic environment. The results have now served to reinforce the views put forward by a high-level committee which had interviewed faculty members across various departments – an overwhelming number of freshers at the engineering school feel stressed, and they blame it on the competitive atmosphere on the campus.

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It appears that 76% of the students polled acknowledged that they experienced stress and attributed it to academics; 14% claimed the reasons were non-academic in nature; and the remaining 10% said they felt no stress at all.

Closing the option to change branches; doing away with lectures late evening or on weekends; allowing students a second chance to clear a subject; updating parents on attendance; these are some steps proposed or undertaken in recent months by IIT-B in its efforts to recast itself as a more accommodating yet vigilant academic institution.

“The steps taken by IIT-Bombay for freshers this year, coupled with the flexibility offered in course selections, will definitely give them a breather,” said a final-year student from the premier Powai institute, on how IIT-Bombay is reconditioning to ease

academic stress in an otherwise highly competitive atmosphere.
A recent survey on the campus revealed that for most freshers, the top reason for stress is excessive competition. Other reasons ranged from difficulty in grasping course content to insufficient help from teaching assistants and instructors. Many even cited undue lab work, quality of mess food, lack of interaction with seniors, and homesickness as factors. Only 28 students said the campus was not stressful. The survey was taken by 350 first-year students, comprising 25% of the total batch strength. The findings were published in the campus magazine, Insight, this week.
The survey results supplemented the findings of the Academic Stress Mitigation Committee (ASMC) formed in response to the preliminary report on the Darshan Solanki suicide case, which cited academic stress as a major concern. Among other things, the committee also recommended doing away with a policy enabling students to change branches after the first year.

ASMC co-convenor Kishore Chatterjee said the decision to stop branch changes was largely based on the committee’s interaction with professors from different departments. “There is a notional belief among students, based on multiple reasons, that certain branches are popular. A significant number aspire to change branches at the end of the first year, but fewer apply and eventually very few get it. But we realised there is no point in putting our students again in a competitive atmosphere when they have already been through one to secure a seat in IIT,” said Chatterjee.
The institute has never sent attendance records to parents. However, following the suicide incident, the committee found it would be better to keep parents of first-year students in the know.
While lectures or exams spill over to the weekends on rare occasions, the committee believed that first-year students need not go through that kind of rigour. It recommended that no academic activities will be scheduled on weekends or holidays. It also suggested that lectures should be conducted between 8.30am and 5pm only for first-year students, giving students time to participate in extracurriculars, self-study or relax.
A senior student from the campus said giving students an FF grade instead of a fail grade and allowing them a second chance to clear the course before the next semester is also a big relief for students. “Our batch had to repeat the entire course if we got a fail grade. Multiple courses pile up,” said the student.

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